The NA LCS Playoffs have reached the semifinals, and the first match of the weekend will be Counter Logic Gaming going up against Immortals.
The split that has led CLG to this moment has been an eventful one in large part thanks to Immortals. In the weeks before the Summer Split began, Counter Logic Gaming traded jungler, Jake “Xmithie” Puchero to Immortals in exchange for jungler, Joshua “Dardoch” Harnett.
The split started fairly strong for CLG, but was upended somewhat in the last three weeks by a sudden switch in the jungle to rookie Omar “OmarGod” Amin to help improve team chemistry. Since then, every moment for CLG has been a battle and every match has been an uphill struggle. One of the few extremely bright spots this split for CLG has been the play of mid laner Choi “Huhi” Jae-hyun who has finally managed to have his first entirely good split since joining back in 2016.
Counter Logic Gaming is still good, and can still put together meaningful wins, as they proved last week in the quarterfinals against Team EnVy, but they still don’t look comfortable doing it. Which makes their match up against Immortals a particularly difficult one. Since the start of the Summer Split, and adding Puchero to the roster, Immortals have been a fantastic, nearly unbeatable team that, while not perfect, is one of the strongest and most consistent in the NA LCS over the last several years.
So, here’s a look a the key points that will decide the series, and how CLG could manage to upset Immortals and move on to the NA LCS Finals.
Flame vs Darshan
Some of the match ups in this series are clear, others, not so much. In the top lane, we have two of competitive League of Legends’ most veteran players facing off in an almost completely undefined meta for the role.
While it’s true the tank meta remains a threat with champions like Maokai continuing to succeed, there are a cavalcade of other interesting styles to be used, and CLG’s Darshan Upadhyaya and Immortal’s Lee “Flame” Ho-Jong can both play any of them. Split pushers like Shen, Jarvan IV and Gnar with their strong damage and zoning damage, even tank busters like Trundle will be invaluable for both of these teams.
The one possible difference in their champion pools, though, could be what sends the match up over the edge. Lee has an incredible handle on champions like Fiora, Renekton or even Gangplank that can put out incredible damage in team fights if positioned exactly right. While Darshan has some experience on the champions, none of them are champions he has looked comfortable playing so far in 2017.
If Flame is able to prove early in the series that he can be a legitimate carry threat on these kinds of champions, CLG will be forced to play around it, leaving Darshan the difficult job of attempting to contain Lee instead of taking initiative in the match himself.
CLG are impossible to ban against
Here’s a thing I didn’t expect to have to type: Huhi is really, good at Vel’Koz. Good enough, in fact, that for the first time, maybe ever, Immortals is going to have to have a plan to play against it. After all, you already have to spend one ban to make sure Choi can’t play Aurelion Sol. All this to say: figuring out how to ban against CLG is a monumental task.
Let’s look at Stixxay for example. So far in the playoffs, he has proven that he is an excellent Tristana winning three out of the four games he has played on the champion. During the regular season, he was unbeaten on Kalista, with an outstanding 11 KDA, making it one of his best champions. We also know that Caitlyn has been his standout comfort pick since he entered the LCS two years ago.
In other words, there isn’t much of a point in trying to ban him out. We already talked about Choi, but his champion pool has the added possibility of containing strange out of meta choices, that no one could anticipate.
That really only leaves one solution for Immortals. Ban out the thing they least want to play against, and be prepared to react quickly when CLG trots out a new off-the-wall strategy.
X gon give it to ya
It’s difficult to remember the last time a trade went this well in the NA LCS. With one roster move Immortals went from a team that barely missed relegation during the Spring Split, to a team with a serious case for being the best team in North America.
During the spring Immortals lacked any kind of cohesive team fight and won mostly on blind aggression early game, or Flame hard carries late. Now, their early game aggression is a little more careful and refined, their teamfights are the best in the league — short of TSM — and they still have the late game hard carries. It’s hard to overstate just how much Puchero brought to this team, and just how much CLG may have given up in getting rid of him.
Counter Logic Gaming started the Summer Split with Hartnett and will end it, one way or the other, with rookie Amin in the jungle. Amin is a strong player, but a trip to Worlds potentially on the line he simply doesn’t exert the necessary pressure for a North American jungler. During CLG’s match against Team EnVy in the quarterfinals, Amin averaged an almost 400 gold deficit at 15 minutes and still only managed to average one kill a game.
The strategy coming into this series for CLG almost has to put Amin in a supporting position. Avoid lane match ups that force Amin to help and put the early game ganking pressure on Choi, allowing Amin to focus on farm to come in big in the mid game. Sure, he isn’t quite the team fighter that Puchero is, but he’s still reliable. If Choi doesn’t manage to snowball his fellow laners early Puchero will take over completely, forcing everything into Immortals favor, and giving CLG little to no hope in the series.